A Passage to Madhya Pradesh

MP @62

DB Post 1 Nov 18


“Madhya Pradesh is a faceless state, without a personality of its own. When we mention MP, it does not create an image that one may recognise easily, an image that is ingrained in our collective memory. But when we mention Punjab or Gujarat or Bengal, it immediately conjures up visions of those states, images that symbolise those states.”

— Rajendra Mathur, 31 October 1965

Eminent journalist Rajendra Mathur wrote these lines nine years after the state of MP was formed in 1956. The new born state initially suffered from an identity crisis.

The problem was accentuated by squabbles among rival politicians and warring pressure groups from different regions amalgamated into the newly-formed state. They were all jockeying for more shares in the power structure.

MP was a geographical oddity when it came into existence. Its boundaries have undergone changes thrice, enough to bewilder both its inhabitants and administrators. Before Independence, it was a fragmented entity.

There was the sprawling Central Provinces and Berar, with Nagpur as its capital. And there was what was known as Central India Agency, a cluster of more than two dozen princely states in Baghelkhand, Bundelkhand, Gwalior, Bhopal, Indore and Malwa regions.

Soon after India became a republic in 1950, the region’s political geography changed. Parts of CP & Berar and CIA were carved out to form two separate states of Madhya Bharat and Vindhya Pradesh, some parts ceding to UP.

Six years later, the State Reorganisation Commission again changed its boundaries. It carved Marathi-speaking areas of Vidharbha , ceding it to the erstwhile Bombay state. The SRC added amalgamated Vindhya and Bhopal with the remaining areas of Madhya Bharat to form Madhya Pradesh.

MP’s boundaries changed a third time in 2000 as Chhattisgarh split to form a separate state.

The new state presented a far from cohesive picture. It included almost four dozen princely states, right from giant Gwalior (65,000 sq km) to tiny Kurwai (400 sq km), all with their own rulers, flags, coat of arms and sometimes even postage stamps.

The largest state in the country boasted of at least half a dozen different linguistic and cultural groups, one-fourth of them living in forests.

The Bhils of Jhabua had little in common with Dandami Marias tribes of Bastar.

The Maharaja of Rewa had refused to allow railways to pass through his kingdom so that passengers may not desecrate it by eating beef.

The rulers of Indore were so progressive that they arranged for heavy machinery to be carted on elephants’ back to establish the region’s first textile mills.

At one time, the state had two capitals, Gwalior for 7 month and Indore for 5 months. The formula also stipulated that former rulers of the two princely states would take turns at governing the state!

The warring factions insisted on their pound of flesh. When Bhopal was made the capital as a compromise, Mahakoshal got high court, Gwalior bagged board of revenue, Indore got labour office and Chhattisgarh walked away with chief minister’s post.

No other state in the country faced such identity crisis. Most states were formed on lingual basis, giving each of them a different persona. Even other Hindi speaking states had their individual identity. Rajasthan was an organic state with a history of Rajputana valour.

“MP was born due to compulsions of map”, writes Rajendra Mathur : “When all other states were created, they did not know what to do with the remaining territory in the middle. So they assembled the unoccupied area and named it MP.”

However, the State Reorganisation Commission gave two arguments in favour of MP. It thought that the newly carved state had the potential of becoming a prosperous industrialised state due to huge mineral wealth in the eastern parts.

It also argued that the large state will get rid of regional strife and provide political stability required for economic development. That, however, did not materialise.

Take per capita income, the traditional indicator of fruits of development. MP was at the bottom of the heap in 1990, ahead only of Bihar and Orissa. And today, more than a quarter century, the state continues to rot at the bottom, just ahead of Bihar, UP and Manipur.

We are where we started.

MP has remained a happy grazing ground for politicians who have little emotional connect with MP.

The BJP might have selected MJ Akbar to represent MP in the Rajya Sabha. But why this globe-trotting, high profile politician even think about MP?

And would not union minister Dharmendra Pradhan prefer his own native Orissa over MP?

Unfortunately, our rulers, whether from the Congress or from the BJP, have failed to safeguard MP’s interests.

DB Post of 1 November 2018

2 Replies to “A Passage to Madhya Pradesh”

  1. Very well documented.
    In a brief stint of more than a year done in Vindhyachal Bhavan at Bhopal, I could sense that a substantial workforce in high offices of the state have their roots in UP or Maharashtra indifferent to hold a MP specific culture. State is thus trapped in corruption and lethargy!

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